Study Looks At Harris County’s Asian And Pacific Islander Population

Rice University's Dr. Stephen Klineberg released a study looking at Harris County's Asian population.


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You can either get bogged down by all the numbers, or if you’re Dr. Stephen Klineberg, you can get really excited.

“By 2010 today, Harris County is 41% Latino, 33% Anglo, 8% Asian, and 18% African-American.”

If you remember one number from that it would be 8% Asian, the focus of Klineberg’s presentation. That 8% means more than 280,000 people originating from countries, like Vietnam, India, China, and the Philippines. And for Klineberg it means a driver for the economy in a transnational world.

“Asians are we see 100% American but retaining strong deep connections to their countries of origin and building those connections in the global marketplace.”

But there’s that one thing that many academics would warn against: it’s painting things with broad brush strokes. The Asian Community is not monolithic. In fact, there’s economic diversity in the waves of Vietnamese immigration to the city. From the highly educated refugees that came after the fall of Saigon in 1975 to survivors of refugee camps that came in 80’s and 90’s. And the model minority myth — the idea that Asian immigrants came with absolutely nothing and succeeded—Klineberg says isn’t really reality.

“When you look at the Asians you discover that they are coming from educational and income backgrounds that are far superior than the average U.S. born Anglo Houstonian.”

Around 50 % of Asians in Harris County have college degrees. That’s about 15 % points higher than the percentage of whites with degrees. But still, there’s a smaller percentage of Asians — when compared to whites — making more than $75,000 a year. And Klineberg says it could be for a host of reasons. Asians are earlier in their careers, and their degrees from abroad don’t translate as well in America.

“But there’s also the continuing reality of the glass ceiling. It’s still more difficult for Asians to move to the top positions of the business world in America.”

A refrain in Klineberg’s talk is that Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in the country. The city’s a demographic leader. Right now, he says there’s no model city that shows how to handle that diversity. Klineberg hopes that Houston becomes that city.


Demographic classifications are based on Texas State Data Center conventions.

Click on the pie graph to pull out a slice. Although the 7.7% of Houstonians is relatively small, the number comprises of more than 280,000 residents from very diverse backgrounds.

Click on the legend below the graph to add, remove and compare attainment levels. Select or deselect to focus in on higher education and high school completion trends.

Click on the legend below the stacked bar graph to add, remove and compare demographic changes. Select or deselect to gauge relative population distributions in Harris County.